Monday, September 01, 2014

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U.S. News: Newman Society Grounds Common Core Debate in Catholic Identity

StudentsThe Cardinal Newman Society is highlighted in an article at U.S. News & World Report about Catholic schools and whether they should adopt the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Education reporter Allie Bidwell notes that while many of the concerns about use of the Common Core in Catholic schools are similar to those in the debate about implementation in public schools, Catholic schools also have the spiritual formation of students to consider.

In a December statement, the Cardinal Newman Society – a Catholic education advocacy group – said it has "grave concerns" about the academic rigor of the standards.

"This school reform effort is nothing short of a revolution in how education is provided, relying on a technocratic, top-down approach to setting national standards that, despite claims to the contrary, will drive curricula, teaching texts, and the content of standardized tests," the statement says. "At its heart, the Common Core is a woefully inadequate set of standards in that it limits the understanding of education to a utilitarian 'readiness for work' mentality."

In public schools, Common Core opponents have made the same arguments. They claim the standards do not adequately prepare children for college and careers, that they were created behind closed doors and forced on schools. Common Core standards, they argue, are a federal overreach into local education which will ultimately diminish creativity and innovation.

But unlike parents and educators in public schools, those in Catholic schools have one additional concern: that adopting the Common Core standards through the "well-intentioned" CCCII will diminish the emphasis on developing students' Catholic identities.

Rather than "infusing" elements of the Catholic faith into the standards, schools should do the opposite, by making the Catholic identity the foundation on which to build, the Cardinal Newman Society argues.

"This approach misses the point that authentic Catholic identity is not something that can be added to education built around thoroughly secular standards, but that our faith must be the center of – and fundamental to – everything that a Catholic school does," the statement says.

Dan Guernsey, who serves on the Board of Trustees for the National Association of Private Catholic and Independent Schools (NAPCIS), is paraphrased as saying that an “organization's mission should drive its standards – and the Common Core doesn't match the Catholic [C]hurch's mission of ‘educating the entire child.’”

While the Common Core standards focus on college and career readiness, Guernsey says the Catholic school mission is much broader, and much more robust, validating the need for more robust standards.

"As Catholic schools, our mission involves transcendental – which is truth, beauty and goodness – and you won't find those words highlighted in the Common Core," he added. "The human heart and the human person is made for much more than college and career."

The Cardinal Newman Society recently launched its Catholic Is Our Core project, helping keep key stakeholders in Catholic education – Catholic families, pastors, teachers, principals, superintendents and bishops – informed about the Common Core and its potential impact on Catholic education.

The Newman Society also has worked with NAPCIS and other groups to share concerns about the Common Core with bishops and school superintendents.  In November, a two-day conference for school leaders and educators was held in New Jersey, followed by a briefing for bishops during the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore, Maryland. These were co-sponsored with NAPCIS and the Catholic Education Foundation.

Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. Click here for email updates and free online membership with The Cardinal Newman Society.

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